The Ethical Aspect of Employee Drug & Alcohol Testing

Medical professional holding a testing probe tube,

In our latest blog post, we discussed drug and alcohol testing and why it is becoming an increasingly common way for employers to manage potential substance abuse at the workplace. Even though there are many arguments in favour of the practice, it can’t be denied that the controversy surrounding it is quite intense, with the opposition pointing to employees’ basic right to privacy.

This week, we’ll discuss the ethical aspect of employee drug and alcohol testing. We will also explore how you as an employer can implement an effective testing program that will not only detect substance misusers at your organisation but will also provide them with the support and resources they need.

Why Is Drug & Alcohol Testing Seen as Problematic?

Hand in blue glove holding urinalysis strip

1. Drug and alcohol testing at work is an invasion of employees’ bodies and personal lives

2. Critics of the procedure argue that it leads to discrimination against individuals who decide to engage with substances on their own time; the argument entails that if they are sober while at work and the substance has no effect on their performance, they should not be forced to disclose their substance use

3. Many drug & alcohol testing policies neglect to consider the potential mental health problems that individuals might be facing

4. There is danger of placing all responsibility on the employee in case of a positive result despite the fact that the work environment (poor conditions, long shifts, bullying, intense workloads, etc.) can actually be a huge contributor towards employees’ substance misuse

5. In many cases, if there is a positive result, employees get reprimanded without being offered any support, treatment, or resources for their substance abuse

6. Drug tests are not always accurate: ‘false positives’ can be caused by various factors, including poppy seeds, diet supplements, vitamins, and prescription or OTC medication

What Does the Law Say?

Employers cannot perform drug tests on employees without receiving consent. Normally, this is when companies have a contractual health and safety policy which should be included in the contract or staff handbook. If the contract/ health and safety policy does not have a drug & alcohol testing clause, employees can still be approached with a request for a test sample which they have the right to refuse. If an individual refuses to test when the employer has good grounds for requesting this, they may face disciplinary action.

According to the UK government website, employers should:

  • Only test employees that need to be tested
  • Make sure the tests are random
  • Not single out particular employees for testing unless this is required due to the nature of their jobs

Basic Ethical Principles to Observe

If you do decide to practice drug and alcohol testing at your workplace, there are some basic ethical principles that you would need to observe to ensure that you are not violating your employees’ rights:

  • Make sure to observe your workers’ right to confidentiality at all times
  • Inform your employees that drug and alcohol use at work will not be tolerated and let them know if you do intend to test them periodically
  • Always ask for consent when requesting your employee to provide a sample for drug testing
  • Only conduct tests if there is a reasonable justification
  • In case of a positive test, provide your employee with the opportunity to explain the results and have a second test
  • Consider the employee’s mental well-being and whether they are going through a hard time at work or at home
  • Be prepared to offer employees support and resources in case of a positive result

How Meduc8ion Can Help You Practice Ethical Workplace Drug & Alcohol Testing

Patient and doctor having a conversation in medical setting

If you would like to practice drug and alcohol testing at your workplace while observing your employees’ rights, Meduc8ion’s Drug & Alcohol Testing Training Course can help you with that!

Our course will not only train you to perform a robust range of alcohol and drug tests, but it will also prepare you to carry these out in a lawful and ethical manner by ensuring that:

  • You understand the processes of completing a Chain of Custody Form and acquiring donor consent
  • You have received assistance in creating a Drug & Alcohol Policy for your business if you don’t currently have one in place
  • You are prepared to handle a potential positive test result with professionalism and integrity to support employee wellbeing

If this sounds like something your business can benefit from, click the button below to book your place on our course! In case you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email [email protected] and our dedicated team of professionals will get back to you as soon as possible.

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